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politics

Mayoral Candidate Wendy Greuel Picks Up Critical Support From L.A. County Labor Federation

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Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 5:19 PM

click to enlarge Wendy Greuel
  • Wendy Greuel
Update below, 5:15 p.m. Full rundown of Garcetti and Greuel's remarks behind closed doors at the Fed today. Greuel: "I'm gonna stand with labor, not stand up to labor." 

Controller Wendy Greuel got a major lift this morning, as the political committee of the L.A. County Federation of Labor voted to endorse her campaign for mayor.

Greuel and her rival, Councilman Eric Garcetti, each appeared before the Fed committee this morning. Greuel walked away with 70% of the vote -- just enough to clear the two-thirds threshold to win the Fed endorsement -- according to two sources who were not allowed to speak on the record about the Fed's internal deliberations.


In past years, the Federation of Labor has run a powerful get-out-the-vote operation, which can be particularly crucial in low-turnout elections. However, the Fed has had back luck in the last two contested mayoral races. In 2001, the organization backed Antonio Villaraigosa, who lost to Jim Hahn. In 2005, the Fed switched its allegiance to Hahn, who lost to Villaraigosa.

The Federation of Labor was neutral in the primary election, in part because its largest member union, Service Employees International Union, did not endorse either candidate. But after last Tuesday's primary vote -- in which Garcetti eked out a 33-29 advantage over second-place Greuel -- three SEIU locals lined up behind Greuel's campaign for the May 21 runoff. Greuel also won the backing of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 36.

Brian D'Arcy, the head of IBEW Local 18, made an appearance at today's Fed meeting to lobby for Greuel, according to the sources. D'Arcy represents 90% of the employees at the L.A. Department of Water and Power. He became a center of controversy after organizing a $2 million expenditure effort on Greuel's behalf during the primary. 

After D'Arcy's group released a TV ad attacking Garcetti, the councilman held a press conference outside the DWP building, at which he vowed not to give IBEW raises during the current economic climate. In his victory speech last week, Garcetti alleged that Greuel's campaign had been "bought and paid for by the power brokers at the DWP union."

A flier circulating at the Fed meeting today highlighted some of Garcetti's negative remarks about Greuel's labor support. "What does Eric Garcetti think of you?" the flier asked. "We've seen this before. Organized labor being called a Special Interest when the interests of working people doesn't align with desperate politicians." The flier tied Garcetti to anti-labor initiatives such as last year's Prop. 32, and went on to accuse Garcetti of "using the Special Interest code language to stifle working people's right to organize and participate in the democratic process."

The Fed endorsement will not be official until it is approved by the group's executive board and delegates. However, the political committee's recommendations are rarely overturned, which makes the two subsequent votes largely a formality.

Greuel and Garcetti have no time to rest. The L.A. County Democratic Party is meeting tonight to reconsider its endorsement in the mayor's race. Like the Fed, the Democratic Party was also neutral during the primary, though allegiances may be shifting there as well.

Update, 2:10 p.m.: Here's the flier.

click to enlarge AntiGarcettiFlier.JPG

Update 2, 5:15 p.m.: The Weekly received an audio recording of the remarks Greuel and Garcetti made at today's closed-door Fed meeting. The recording shows that Greuel went all out in making the case to the union audience, saying at one point "I'm gonna stand with labor, not stand up to labor."


Here's a full rundown of their remarks.

Greuel began by presenting herself as someone who is "truthful and fair, and not just saying one thing and doing another. Not just saying, 'I'm with you until you don't support me.'"

Greuel alleged that Garcetti was "playing politics with the labor movement."

Greuel also criticized Garcetti for taking money from a Wal-Mart employee despite pledging not to. She also alluded to the controversy over the City Council's vote last year to pare back pensions for new employees, which labor groups vociferously opposed in part because it was done without their consultation. Greuel stressed that she would support the collective bargaining process.

She also took aim at recent remarks from Bill Carrick, Garcetti's strategist, who referred last week to Greuel's union support as "baggage."

"I almost brought my luggage with me to show you, because you've been called baggage after the election," she said. "After SEIU endorsed me last week... they said Wendy's gonna have a lot of baggage by having the labor movement with her. That it is gonna be an effort of labor versus somebody else who is going to stand up to labor. Guess what. I'm gonna stand with labor, not stand up to labor."

"Now we won't always agree," Greuel continued, "but I am not going to demonize you... I'm proud to have labor support. You know what they also say is 'You're special interests.' Ooh, that's horrible. Guess what. I'm proud you're special interests. And you're special interests for the working men and women. Because you know what? When you demonize workers, that's firefighters. That's 9-1-1 operators. That's librarians. Those are painters. Those are the people who every single day are trying to get a good family wage job."

"I am going to be a champion for working families," Greuel said. "I am not embarrassed. I will not demonize, and I will stand up no matter what... Are you ready to support someone who stands with you through thick and thin? Are you ready to support someone who will not demonize you when you don't support me?"

"We do not need people to pull us apart," she concluded. "We do not need anyone to suggest that you are baggage, that you are special interests, or that you are taken over by power brokers in the city of Los Angeles. I am gonna be that champion for labor."

When it was Garcetti's turn, he listed his long history of pro-labor positions, including his support for a living wage ordinance for hotel workers at LAX, his opposition to Wal-Mart superstores, his work opposing sweatshops, his opposition to Prop. 32 and his support for immigration reform.

He closed by addressing the charge that he had referred to unions as "special interests." 

"I've been attacked in this race," Garcetti said. "And it's a race. I understand that. Some may expect me to turn my cheek but I won't."

He said his grandfather "taught me when you (get) hit you don't just stay down you get up. But I haven't hit back at labor. Let me be clear. The term of special interests... is not something that I've used to attack labor. In fact, as we speak right now I'm doing more to promote labor of the two candidates on issues that you care about than anybody else in this race. It's not just words. It's actions. You can, in a campaign, paint whatever picture you want, but the evidence runs against that."

"So let's stop attacking labor allies, and let's attack the people who are against all of us in this room. What message does it send to spend millions of dollars of our members' money against allies in labor?  Nobody has been 100%. But I have more in that plus column than anybody in this race. And I'm gonna win. I'm going to be the next mayor."

"And I can't wait to get to work with each of you, each of you, no matter where you're at in this race, to make sure I continue the work that undergirds the values I have, which is that teachers, the working people, the nurses, the public employees, the laborers, the airport workers, the janitors, the security folks, the building trades folks -- they deserve a voice, will have a voice when I'm mayor, and I look forward to earning that alongside you."

Update 3, 5:45 p.m.: Brian D'Arcy, the head of IBEW Local 18, and Marvin Kropke, head of IBEW Local 11, also addressed the audience at the Fed vote today. We don't have a recording of that, but we do have the gist of what was said from Frank Lima, the president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, who was in the room.

"They made Garcetti answer for his actions, his words -- calling us special interests," Lima said. According to Lima, Kropke and D'Arcy said something to the effect of, "We're the working class. We're the ones making the city work. Hey, is that how you're going to run your campaign? You're going to be the one standing up to the unions?"

Lima said that D'Arcy took offense that Garcetti had been critical of labor during the campaign, but tried to soft-pedal it during the meeting. "Just man up to it," Lima said, summarizing D'Arcy's remarks. "He didn't man up to it. Don't try to skate around what you said and say you're for the working class. You're obviously not."

D'Arcy and Kropke's remarks were met with applause from most of the audience, Lima said. Garcetti's backers offered a motion to endorse him, which failed. They then urged the Greuel supporters to vote for "no endorsement," which also didn't go anywhere. Then the group voted to support Greuel.

Update 4, 6:30 p.m.: Greuel just called the Weekly to explain what she meant when she said, "I'm gonna stand with labor, not stand up to labor."

In her prepared remarks, Greuel said the line read, "I'm gonna stand with labor, not stand up to labor by demonizing them."

"That was what I had in my remarks. When I said them, I forgot that part of it," Greuel said. "The way it was paraphrased was not how I meant it."

Asked how she would respond to voters who might be concerned about her remarks, Greuel said, "I do stand with labor, but we're not always going to agree... I would say the same thing to the Chamber of Commerce."

Update 5, 8:57 p.m.: The L.A. County Democratic Party decided this evening to stay neutral in the mayor's race. The vote was Garcetti 105 to Greuel 81. Another nine delegates voted for "no endorsement."

Though Garcetti took 54% of the delegates, he fell short of the 60% threshold needed to win the endorsement. He would have needed another 12 votes to win.

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